Becoming a self-sustaining Diocese

The Diocese of Aliwal has started a process of finance and administration improvement, final objective being to reach the self-sufficiency of the diocese. At the present time more than half of diocesan income comes from overseas. To achieve it two volunteers Benoit and Vanessa have arrived from Fidesco (French Catholic’s NGO) at the beginning of March at the chancery in Aliwal North. The “Diocesan Finance and Administration Team” called DAFT have already met all the Parish Finance Committees (PFC) of the diocese. These meetings have enabled them to introduce themselves. It has also been a chance to hear and understand how PFCs are working and what needs they meet and problems they face. It has been a great source of information with very different but also common problems.

Once information compiled and small scales tests finalised the first new tools will be implemented. In regards to the overall monitoring, the first concern is monthly reports: ensure on time reception and good completion. To avoid mistakes, a new Excel® pattern has been designed and is being tested now. Still a major problem needs to be solved: computer equipment.  Findings show that some PFCs are not equipped and do not even have the basic computer skills. Furthermore PFCs are very new in some parishes that makes them very dependent on the priest who used to manage finances. Special support and accounting training will be necessary in these parishes.

Second concern to approach is the collection support. Parishes have shown a lack of communication towards parishioners regarding purposes of collections. It results in global low collections. A diocesan way of communicating is expected in order to better explain the purpose of each collection and so to better involve parishioners. Some efficient parish incentives could hopefully be shared and adapted by others. Aside of this concern is the way finances are reported to the parishioners in order to ensure 100% transparency in finance management.

Third concern is the parish budget planning. It has been done so far straight from last year’s figures instead of basing it on real upcoming needs and wishes. Parishes need to realise the importance of term-managing their finances through: budgeting, reporting and monitoring. DAFT plans to organise together with DFC (Diocese Finance Committee) annual budget meeting with each PFC in order to have them presenting and explaining their figures.

A deeper reflexion on the consistency of finance management throughout the diocese and parishes is on-going. The question is how to split roles between the diocese and parishes. In other words how and how far should the diocese be involved in the finances of the parishes and what level of involvement should parishes have in their own. Should the finances be managed independently in each parish or should parishioners be considered as being diocesan above all and so share according to the different parish needs? Whatever the conclusion is, this reflexion will be translated into new tools and ways of working.

At the diocesan level some work is also being done at the accounting management level in order to optimize finance and administration and harmonise them with parishes. Account management is being completely reviewed with a new consistency implemented. Some reorganisation in the saving management is on-going.

Financial needs to enable proper work on finance and administration: 

  1. Providing each parish with a computer and software will ease records and avoid mistakes.
    For that the diocese is lacking funds for:  15 computers + office pack = 15 x R 6 000 = R 90 000
  2. A diocesan PFC meeting with training and workshops would be a great chance for all PFC to get skills and also share their return of experiences and best practices:  15 PFC X 3 people (transport + catering) = R 15 000